Architects Need to Build Their Knowledge to Build a Sustainable Future

construction

Current popular building practices lack a nuanced approach to sustainability due to years of it being culturally ok to put future generations into ecological debt. Thankfully, things are starting to change and architects want to build a sustainable future, and fast. Prior to mass industrialization buildings were constructed using locally sourced materials, making them more sustainable with a relatively small carbon footprint. As globalization increased the techniques of using local materials were forgotten and now architects are calling for everybody in their field to share best practices around locally sourced material and techniques.

Architects are at the forefront of our drive to lessen the impact humans have on the environment. While the agenda has stayed relatively constant since I was at school, the sustainability goalposts have moved – and narrowed. A building designed as zero-carbon just half a decade ago would now be considered ‘operationally’ zero-carbon at best, whereas ‘whole-life carbon’ calculations now consider the building’s demolition and waste disposal. Our thinking, designs and architectural goals must evolve, but things are evolving at such a speed; how on earth are architects to keep up?

‘Renewable and sustainable technologies change very quickly, as does our understanding of sustainable outcomes, so it is important to try to keep on top of it,’ says Tate Harmer partner Jerry Tate. ‘We need to communicate to each other in our industry, sharing best practice and our experiences to help get to the right answers.’

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To Build a Green Future We Need Green Buildings

the suburbs

Buildings suck up a lot of energy and thus are massive contributors to our collective carbon footprint. After they are built ongoing operational costs are incurred, and the costs are greater on buildings which are inefficiently deigned and built. This has led a team in the states to call for a new approach towards how construction functions in the nation. A green approach to build green is the dream.

Of course, the best thing we can do is work to reduce our demand on new buildings and re-purpose existing infrastructure to be more efficient.

With public demand growing for scalable climate solutions from all levels of government, policymakers can work together to transition the United States from a patchwork of requirements to a set of dynamic, performance-based policies that enable rapid decarbonization throughout a building’s lifecycle. Zero-carbon building codes for new construction address the emissions from buildings constructed each year, while emerging building performance standards and policies can address existing buildings.

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Gender Inclusive Design for our Built Environment

Architects generally want people to feel comfortable around their buildings or interior spaces; however, architects aren’t perfect and may overlook some simple design solutions that can put people at ease. The World Bank Group has released a handbook for urban planners, architects, and anybody shaping our physical environment to use when making (or renovating) spaces. The handbook is all about designing for all genders and ensuring that the built environment is useful and welcoming to all regardless of their gender.

Urban planning and design quite literally shape the environment around us — and that environment, in turn, shapes how we live, work, play, move, and rest. This handbook aims to illuminate the relationships between gender inequality, the built environment, and urban planning and design; and to lay out a menu of simple, practicable processes and best practices for urban planning and design projects that build more inclusive cities – for men and women, for those with disabilities, and for those who are marginalized and excluded.

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We can Still Learn from Traditional Approaches to the Built Environment

Forest

In a new book about how humans build and shape the environment around us, Julia Watson, argues that traditional indigenous techniques are the most efficient. Forget techno-carbon capture, smart cities, and other buzzwords; the best approaches already exist and we just need to use them. In her book, The Power of Lo-TEK, she looks at communities from Peru to Iran and how their indigenous approaches to building homes, farms, or other places has been honed over hundreds of years to find the best way to build.

Lo-TEK explores 18 indigenous communities, organizing them by the type of landscape each inhabits: mountains, forests, deserts, or wetlands. Case studies include the living root bridges created by the Khasi in Northern India; the waffle gardens of the Zuni tribe in New Mexico; aquaculture around the floating villages of the Tofinu people of Benin; the qanat underground aquifers in Iran; and the mudhif reed architecture of Iraq. Watson approaches each of these case studies like a cultural anthropologist and an architect, laying out the different spiritual relationships each community has with its environment, the history of how they created their engineering techniques, and detailed diagrams that explain how the techniques work. 

Watson sees her book as today’s version of the Museum of Modern Art’s influential Architecture without Architects exhibition of 1964, which discussed the merits and sophistication of vernacular design from the past—design that architects at the time had dismissed in favor of modernism.

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How Architects are Responding to the Climate Crisis

Montreal

Architecture is all around us and most of us don’t even think about it. The built environment shapes how we think and provides (or denies) us with options on how to navigate the world and engage with it. This means that if we change the built environment we can change the planet. Years of thoughtless car friendly development have contributed greatly to the climate crisis and now architects are doing what they can to mitigate harm.

The Architects Declare Movement is Founded

In May, some of the world’s leading UK-based architects joined forces to call for industry-led action on the twin issues of climate change and biodiversity loss. The “Architects Declare” group includes firms such as Foster + Partners, David Chipperfield Architects, and Zaha Hadid Architects.

Utrecht’s 300 Bee-Friendly Bus Stops

In July, we reported that the City of Utrecht Council, in collaboration with advertising agency Clear Channel, has transformed 316 bus stops across the city into “bee stops.” The adaption involved installing green roofs onto the bus stops, creating bee-friendly spaces for the endangered species.

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